Western Michigan University receives a $9.6M federal grant to advance renewable energy research

Contact: Joy Brown

Dr. Qingliu Wu, Western Michigan University assistant professor and the project lead for Enabling Advanced Electrode Architecture through Printing Technique project.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.— Western Michigan University has received a nearly $9.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to supercharge ongoing lithium-ion battery research led by the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The scientific breakthroughs supported by this funding are expected to enhance crucial environmental sustainability efforts pertaining to energy efficiency and resources consumption.

“This is spectacular news for Western Michigan University and the Kalamazoo community, and I am so proud to continue supporting the work of this incredible institution,” says U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph.

Titled Enabling Advanced Electrode Architecture through Printing Technique, the three-year project is being spearheaded by Dr. Qingliu Wu, an assistant professor in WMU’s Department of Chemical and Paper Engineering. As principal investigator, Wu will lead the project team of scientists and engineers in seeking ways to create more cost-effective, fast-charging and high-energy lithium-ion batteries for use in electric vehicles and other consumer products such as drones and portable devices. 

The low-cost printing method used for electrode fabrication will potentially increase energy density without sacrificing battery life. Lithium-ion batteries, such as those in cell phones, that now take up to three hours to charge would take only 10 minutes or less with such next-generation technology.

According to Dr. Terri Goss Kinzy, vice president for research and innovation at WMU, Wu has assembled a multidisciplinary team within WMU to work with Argonne National Laboratory; WMU’s partners Northeastern University, Brown University and University of North Carolina Charlotte; SafeSense Technologies LLC, a technology start-up launched by WMU and spun off as an independent company; and Boston, Massachusetts-based Nanoramic Laboratories to provide solutions to global energy concerns and address national priorities of the Department of Energy. 

“This research is designed to also engage Western Michigan University students and allow them to contribute now and become the next generation of leaders in this field,” Kinzy says.

Contributing to the research at WMU will be Ph.D. students Guanyi Wang and Jie Ziong and Jian Yang; undergraduate students Lindsay Gubow, Bharat Goel and JustOne M. Crosby; and professors Dr. Kecheng Li, Dr. Paul D. Fleming, Dr. Alexandra Pekarovicova, Dr. Clement Burns and Dr. Massood Atashbar.

Wu says he is grateful to have received the grant, and for the support of various partners and colleagues who also helped earn the award. 

Western Michigan University student Lindsay Gubow conducting lithium-ion battery research.

“I am very excited that I need not worry about the money to conduct this important research,” says Wu. “Also, I am excited that we can have more students at WMU involved in our research on lithium-ion batteries. As you know, lithium-ion batteries could store significant amount of energy from solar and wind power, making possible a fossil fuel-free society.”

“If successful, the printing technology that we proposed for this project will further reduce the energy consumption during cell fabrication, and thus pollution to the environment. In addition, the technology could also significantly reduce the cost of electrodes, and make possible cheaper batteries for customers,” Wu says.

In December 2019, Wu impressed Congress members in Washington, D.C. with his presentation at the Energy and Environment Innovation Showcase.

WMU’s longstanding reputation for discovery and forward-thinking scientific development is exemplified within its College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, where its numerous programs produce practical improvements and problem-solving leaders who are committed to improving lives. 

About Western Michigan University's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Western Michigan University's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences offers a nurturing environment that allows each student to achieve and grow. The college gives students a solid foundation with exceptional hands-on experiences. Students work closely with our highly accomplished faculty, who want to get to know them, support them and see them succeed. The $100 million facility on WMU's Parkview Campus has 323,000 square feet of teaching and research space, with 75 undergraduate and graduate labs. The college shares space in the Business Technology and Research Park with 44 high-tech companies.

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